24 hours at the edge of the world with Samsung Galaxy S8

How do you know if a smartphone can be right for you? Many people get their first hands-on experience with a new phone while standing in a retail store or browsing online. It’s not a very elegant way to decide whether or not you’re going to make a commitment to something that will be in your hands and part of your most intimate moments likely for the next 2 to 3 years. Ideally, instead, you’d get to hold it and get a real feel for it, try out the camera, interact with the device and its apps, and use it as if it were your own before you decide. I had a rare chance to do exactly that with the Samsung Galaxy S8 before its public launch. But this was no ordinary review opportunity. Continue reading “24 hours at the edge of the world with Samsung Galaxy S8”

Fugoo Style Bluetooth speaker review: wireless audio never sounded so good

There’s hardly a home or office that doesn’t have at least one wireless Bluetooth speaker these days. (Or is that just me? Do non-tech bloggers have 4 portable wireless speakers?) Portable wireless audio has become the standard for listening to music in the home. There are larger more sophisticated versions like Sonos or Bose, but there are also many choices when it comes to smaller more portable speakers. Fugoo Style is one of those speakers. But how well does it perform and is it worth the price?

Features of Fugoo Style wireless speaker

Fugoo makes a variety of Bluetooth speakers in varying sizes, different levels of portability and several styles. The Style speaker is one of the chicest, but its good looks conceal a tough and durable interior. Fugoo says the speaker has a “fiber-reinforced resin shell and waterproof cloth covering that gives this speaker the protection it needs to last long past cocktail hour.”

The speaker is about the size of a small clutch purse or a portable coffee mug, and though it’s lightweight, it doesn’t feel cheap; it feels like it has some durability and heft behind it. it has a built in speakerphone and connects with Siri or Google Now.

It also has a changeable jacket, which is removed by pushing a release tab on the base. Without its skin, it looks very industrial, and still cool. Keeping the jacket on provides some measure of water or spill protection, so it’s probably best kept on.

Setting up Fugoo Style is easy

Setting up the Fugoo speaker couldn’t have been simpler; the first time you’ll turn it on, head to your device’s Bluetooth menu, and click on the speaker, which should have appeared in the Bluetooth devices list.  If not, you can touch the Bluetooth button next to the speaker’s power button and it should pop right up accompanied by a helpful and suave sounding male digital assistant’s voice.  I was connected and playing music in about 10 seconds. I love devices where set up is simple and flawless, so Fugoo gets high marks for this.

Fugoo Style Sound quality & volumeFugoo style poetable wireless bluetooth speaker

It can be hard to find good quality sound in a small Bluetooth speaker.  Fortunately the Fugoo Style sounded great from the get-go. The device, thought it looks like a single speaker, actually hides 4 speakers inside its housing; two in each face and two others in the ends.

Fugoo says, “the FUGOO Portable Bluetooth Speaker has six symmetrically-placed drivers. The two tweeters deliver clean highs, two mid/sub drivers give midrange punch, and two passive radiators help bring out a full, deep bass. Together, these six drivers deliver a clean sound pressure level, filling large rooms and outdoor areas with rich, immersive sound.”

I definitely found the speaker powerful and room filling, and I tested it with several styles and genres of music.

My test Playlist with the Fugoo Style

► The Roots (Don’t Say Nuthin’)
► Pharell (Beautiful)
► Dave Matthews Band (American Baby)
► City and Colour (Comin’ Home)
► Robbie Williams (I will talk and Hollywood will listen)
► Tragically Hip (Poets)
► Kiev (Be Gone Dull Cage)

The bass was solid, and the high end didn’t sound tinny or buzzy. I was able to crank it to 2/3 volume without any noticeable distortion. At about 3/4 volume I did notice a raspiness creeping in to the vocals, but overall the sound was pretty good. The sound quality overall has quite a bit of depth and the music sounded true.Fugoo style poetable wireless bluetooth speaker

The bass on Don’t say Nuthin and Poets was true and thumping, the vocals on Beautiful and Be Gone Dull Cage sounded soft and smooth, while the picking and the snare on American Baby were resonant and real. The acoustic guitar on Comin’ Home was hauntingly real. Subtle flute and clarinet, and the big symphonic drums on my Robbie Williams selection was delicately replicated, while Robbie’s voice cut through with vibrancy. I was quite impressed with the amazing sound quality I got out of this little speaker.

Fugoo adds, “the upward tilt of the speakers puts everyone in the sweet spot. So simply place your speaker in the center of a room and fill any space with sharp highs, bassy lows, and all-around premium audio.” I can’t disagree.

Does Fugoo Style have good battery life?

Many portable wireless Bluetooth speakers have a battery life in the 10-20 hour range. Fugoo Style boasts an astounding 40 hours of battery life. That’s well above many other similar speakers, so this gadget is a great choice if you’re heading to a campground or on a road trip for a weekend. I tested the speaker for about two weeks and never charged it once.

Bluetooth connectivity is outstanding on Fugoo Style

Fugoo style poetable wireless bluetooth speakerThe speaker uses Bluetooth 4.0 for wireless connectivity which Fugoo says will give you solid connectivity up to 33 feet. In my tests I carried my iPhone 6 Plus all over the 1000 square foot main floor and didn’t experience any breakup of the Bluetooth signal. Heading downstairs (where I have seen digital signal breakup on other speakers) the Fugoo Style didn’t miss a beat. Again, I was impressed.

Overall review of Fugoo Style portable wi-fi speaker

This is an absolutely fantastic Bluetooth speaker. I have to say I wasn’t expecting very much from something this small and with such an eye to style, so I was happily blown away by the outstanding audio quality and durability. The dead-easy set up also gets top marks from me.

The 40 hour battery life is also a huge plus for me. I’ve been using it in my bathroom when I’m getting ready for work in the morning. I used to just use the small crappy speaker on my iPhone, but the easy connectivity, great sound, and compact size means it can sit in the bathroom for weeks on end and provide me with high-quality audio before it ever needs to be recharged.

I think the waterproof cover is also a great thing to have since you just never know what can happen at a party or gathering; a little insurance is nice.

In short, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this speaker to anyone who’s looking for a portable Bluetooth audio solution.

 The Fugoo Style costs $139USD or about $185CAD. Get more info here.

 

 

DEWALT phone built rugged & tough to take abuse on job sites

Smartphones are often delicate pieces of technology.  The glass screens and thin metal casings may look pretty, but they’re not suited to some industries or locations like a construction site. Now DEWALT, known for its power tool line has come out with an Android phone that’s built so tough it doesn’t even need a case. The DEWALT MD501 also has a host of other features that are designed for job sites. Continue reading “DEWALT phone built rugged & tough to take abuse on job sites”

Robot Lawn Mower from Husqvarna saves your summer: Review

Husqvarna Automower lawn robot grass canada calgarySome folks LOVE yard work; for many others, cutting grass is a chore that eats into your time off. Consider then, that you could get a device that takes care of all your lawn cutting needs; the Husqvarna Automower robot lawn mower will cut your grass and keep your yard in shape all without you needing to lift a finger.

Husqvarna Automower is a robot lawn mower

The Husqvarna Automower is a relatively new product in Canada, but it’s been hugely popular in Europe for some time (and boy, do the Europeans have fun with their automowers! From racing stripes, to cammo to ladybugs, they’re totally customizeable.).

The mower is slightly smaller in size than a standard lawn mower, and has no handle.  Small wheels keep it moving, and a small panel in the top allows you to make adjustments as needed.husqvarna mower ladybug

What can the robot lawn mower for for me?

The Automower can be set on an electronic schedule, so it will keep your lawn trim all season long.  The mower doesn’t go out once per week and slice down the lawn by two inches, instead it mulches the lawn by cutting very small amounts each day; the lawn will appear as though it just stops growing.  The robot is fully autonomous, and will find its way around your yard mulching grass until it needs to return to its base station for a recharge.

How the Husqvarna Automower work?

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Guidewire laid in the grass and held in place with stakes.

The mower should be professionally installed. A Husqvarna dealer can help with planning and layout for your new set up.

First, you need to lay a guidewire around your yard so the robot knows where its boundaries are.  While this sounds simple, a small break in your guide wire can render your whole wiring job useless.  It took three pros about 6 hours to properly set up my boundaries, test the connections and troubleshoot it when it wasn’t quite working.  You’ll want to do this right and get it professionally installed so you don’t have to worry about it.

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The Automower, base station to the left, and a sample patch of grass that was allowed to grow while the mower trimmed the rest of the yard.

The Automower works by operating within its guidewire; essentially acting as a “Roomba vacuum” does, but for your grass.  You can use the wires to “fence” off any areas the robot should steer clear of, whether that’s your vegetable garden, flowers or a child’s play area.

 

The Husqvarna Automower comes with a base station which it uses as a home base and recharging station. The positioning of the station is important; it shouldn’t get too much sunlight, and you’ll want it to be out of the way.  I’m told many homeowners in Europe will actually build tiny “mini garages” for their Automower, and if I were to own one, I think I’d do that too to help it fit into or hide away from the yard.

 

How loud is the Husqvarna Automower? Mine ran at night, without a complaint


Surprisingly, this mower is absolutely silent.  Compared to the ear-splitting grind of a traditional electric or gas mower, you will not even hear this one at work in your yard.  In fact, it was so quiet, I had mine scheduled to run at night, and I never heard it, nor did my neighbours.

What if someone tried to steal my Husqvarna Automower?

The Husqvarna Automower has anti-theft protection built in.  For starters, if someone were to lift it up to carry it off, an alarm will sound.  Second, you need a pin code to operate it.  Third, if a thief were to try to operate it without its base station or pin code, it would cease functioning.  And fourth even if an intrepid thief were to, say, try to buy a new base station and get the pin code reset, this can only be done via an authorized Husqvarna dealer.  The dealers’ records show who owns each device and their lost/stolen status. Attempting to reconfigure one without the proper documentation would result in all kinds of red flags, and perhaps a call to the police.img_3350

What happens in the rain?

Rain doesn’t bother the robot. If the grass is too wet for cutting, the Automover can sense this, and it’ll return to base until things are drier.

Will the Husqvarna Automower hurt pets or children?

The mower won’t hurt anyone, human or animal, that comes into contact with it.  For starters, the mulching blades are small, so they likely wouldn’t even make contact with flesh.  If they did, they have a foldaway spring which prevents them from cutting when they hit a hard object.

Another safety feature; if the mower bumps anything like a foot or a sleeping dog, it will simply back up and choose a new direction.

What happens if something goes wrong?

Husqvarna Automower installation calgary
Getting great service from Alberta Forest & Garden, Husqvarna dealers, in Calgary.

I had a couple of issues with my temporary installation; primarily the wire loop becoming disconnected from the mower base station.  The staff at Alberta Forest & Garden were quick to come out and take a look and make repairs any time I had a problem.  In this case the problem was that the guidewire was only temporarily staked to the surface of my grass.

In an ideal and permanent installation, the wire is buried underground so there’s no worries about kids, pets or trippy adults pulling it loose.

A couple times early in the testing, I heard the alarm go off in the middle of the night. it turns out the robot was falling into a bit of a pit in the lawn, and its built in security system was worried someone was trying to make off with it.  The solution was to make a barrier around the deep pit so they mower wouldn’t get caught.

In another case the automower was missing chunks of grass.  That was easily remedied by adjusting the wire boundary, and also adjusting how far the mover is allowed to stray past the wire.  It was increased by a few inches and that helped it get a good cut from edge to edge.

Overall review of the Husqvarna Automower

I really, really liked this device.  It worked well, and kept my lawn short all summer long, without a lick of work from me.

The totally silent operation meant the mower could work while I slept, and wake up every day to a beautifully manicured lawn; all we had to do was handle the trimming.  If that’s more work than you want to do, it’s possible to make some small adjustments to your yard’s landscaping so no trimming is required either; I’m talking about adding edging, hedges, gravel or mulch.

Any problems I had with the mower were handled quickly and cheerily, and I feel confident any ongoing issues would be dealt with quickly.

I can’t find a single thing to complain about with the Husqvarna automower.  It’s definitely something I’d get for my home or property… and may still one day!

Where can I get one of these Husqvarna Automowers? What do they cost?

My demo unit was supplied for 3 months by Alberta Forest and Garden in Calgary. They are licensed Husqvarna dealers.  I highly recommend them for their great attention to detail and friendly service.

Pricing starts at $2100 CDN (315 model: cuts 1/3 acre) and goes up to $4000 (450X model: cuts 1.25 acre), depending on the model you choose.img_3372

 

Goutte D’O rain drop cabins from Parks Canada entice campers

gouttedo590_I LOVE this idea.  A six meter mini-cabin in the shape of a drop of water is now open to campers in Canada.  The Goutte D’O (water or rain droplet) is a small portable accommodation option designed to entice campers who might find tenting too rustic.

Gouttes D’O make debut in Canada parks

gouttedo275The Goutte is a hard-sided wooden structure with screened windows and a suspended net loft to add space. Parks Canada says, “there is a sofa bed on the main level and a hammock loft above. TheGoutte d’Ô can accommodate a couple or a family. Ideally, this accommodation is suspended or on stilts. For the piloting phase, the Goutte d’Ô will be installed on a wooden platform at Point Wolfe Campground in Fundy National Park.”

It goes without saying that there are no bathrooms inside these tiny huts, and campers need to bring their own bedding and supplies, but that’s not unlike regular tenting. Pets are also verbotten in the Gouttes. Four people can fit inside and sleep inside the gouttes; two in the sofabed and two in the loft, thhough I’m guessing it might be a bit more comfortable with two adults and two kids.

A handful of these would look so cool hanging in a campground, don’t you think?

The Gouttes are $70 a night to rent during a trial phase. This structure is just one of a handful of new structures appearing in Canadian National Parks in hopes of enticing more people to commune with nature. Micro Cubes, Tree Cocoons and Tiny Homes are some other examples. (Read this cool blog from This Big Adventure about the cocoons)

Check out the new cabins here. I’d love to know who is making these chic spaces, because honestly, I’d love one for my backyard! I’ll see what I can find out from the fine folks at Parks Canada.

Tiny home_website

 

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Napier Sportz Truck-bed Tent Review

Getting out of the city, away from the job and into the outdoors can really make you feel relaxed. That’s why I love camping. I can turn off my mobile, light a fire, and sit and contemplate the stars.

I’ve been a tenter from the beginning; no fancy RV’s for me! I’ve had a couple different tents over the years, and had a hand in setting up even more for tag-along friends and family, so I was excited to try out a whole new type of tent. The Napier Sportz Two-person Truck Tent was along for the ride as I took a two-week road trip through the northwestern USA.

Napier Truck tent featuresnapier tent poles
The Napier Sportz Truck Tent fits into the box of a pickup truck, and has straps that keep it anchored and in place. The tent is tall enough to stand up in, and has three large, wide windows with both screens and covers, plus a wide door opening at the tailgate. There’s also an included gear loft, plus a rain fly. A couple of pockets on the inside also allow you to stash small items where you can reach them easily.

There are some major considerations with this tent, including some potential limitations, and some trouble I had with the tent poles splitting. As this review was published on the Best Buy Plug In blog, please click here to read the full review, or watch the video review below.